Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 312
Wright's first success was Native Son (1940). It is the tragic tale of Bigger Thomas and explores many of the same themes as Black Boy.
The 1963 novel entitled Lawd Today is in many ways Richard Wright's best work, although it was never as successful as Black Boy or Native Son. This story began as "Cesspool" in 1935 and tells the story of the futile life of Jake Jackson, who lives in Chicago as a postal worker.
A member of the "Wright School," Ann Petry wrote about the trials of life on 116th Street, Harlem, in The Street In that 1946 novel, Petry explores the relationship of environment and a black woman's effort to live with self-respect in the ghetto. Both written by and about a woman, it is a nice companion to Richard Wright's work.
Invisible Man, the 1953 novel by Ralph Ellison, has become a classic portrayal of black experience in America.
For a nonfictional view of what actually constituted Jim Crow, see Jim Crow Guide: The Way It Was, which has been recently re-published by Florida Atlantic University Press. In this work by Stetson Kennedy, the legal basis as well as the civic rules which created the system of legal discrimination are displayed. The book is highly informative and very readable. An account of black experience in the "democratic army" which fought in World War II has been recorded by Mary Patrick Motley in The Invisible Soldier: The Experience of the Black Soldiers, WWII Motley's work is a collection of interviews with veterans of the war who told her about the fighting as well as the unfortunate existence of Jim Crow in the U.S.—a practice which other armies did not mirror. For further reading on race relations in the U.S. at the time of the novel, see R. Polenberg's One Nation Divisible: Class, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States since 1938.
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